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The delta variant is bringing uncertainty to big events. Here are some things to consider before you go

From the State Fair to football games, a local doctor has some advice to stay safe.

MINNEAPOLIS — When the Minnesota State Fair announced it's return earlier this year, Dr. Beth Thielen, a fair fanatic herself, requested a day off for late August and started dreaming of the Great Minnesota Get Back Together.

"I love the state fair," Dr. Thielen said. "I was so disappointed that it was not a possibility last year and I was hopeful, knowing that it seemed like we were getting under control with this pandemic."

But as an infectious disease physician, and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Dr. Thielen's optimism has faded due to the rapid spread of the delta variant in recent weeks. 

"It's leading a lot of us, including myself, to question whether this is the time that we can go to the state fair," Dr. Thielen said.

Regardless of those questions, big events are still moving forward every day, so Dr. Thielen has been working to provide some advice to those who come to her with questions.

"Really, what I have people do is think about, are you protected as well as you can be?" she said. "The first thing is simple: vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. That is the best thing you can do."

But it's not the only thing. Because the delta variant is so much more infectious, she says it's a good idea to plan trips to the State Fair and other multi-day events, at non-peak times. Avoiding the biggest crowds should help you maintain more distance. She says limiting time indoors is also key, but if you can't avoid the crowds and stay outside, she says everyone, including the vaccinated, should be wearing masks.

"If these interventions work for the healthcare systems where the risk of transmission is the highest, then I think applying them elsewhere will be beneficial to stop the spread of infections," Dr. Thielen said.

She says that's why it's no surprise that more events are requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test as a condition of admittance. Despite widespread concern about a massive crowd at the recent Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, doctors say a vaccination/testing policy appear to have prevented it from becoming a super-spreader event. 

Still, Dr. Thielen says every event still comes with risk, so she says each person has to figure out their risk tolerance...and not just for themselves.

"People need to think about the risk of either themselves getting infected or the people around them," Dr. Thielen said. "That may be people who have an immunocompromising condition like cancer or an organ transplant. And then whether there are children who are not yet vaccinated in the house.

"Reasonable people can assess their own circumstances and come to different conclusions."

Kent Erdahl: "Do you know if you'll go to the State Fair yet?"

Dr. Thielen: "It's a very tough question, and I've been a bit putting it off. I'll wait a few more weeks to see how things turn out, but at this point I'm leaning towards probably not, to be consistent with safety. I'm around people who are immunocompromised and I don't want to risk the chance that I will spread this infection to them. I have to do this thing for the good of the community."

The Minnesota Vikings preseason are recommending masks, but not requiring them, during their preseason game at US Bank Stadium on Saturday. If you decide to go, Dr. Thielen recommends wearing a more protective mask - like an N95 or KN95 - which is designed to protected the wearer.

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